New Jersey lawmakers pass last-minute expansion of abortion access

Jonah McKeown   By Jonah McKeown for CNA

Denver Newsroom, Jan 10, 2022 / 15:23 pm (CNA).

Lawmakers in New Jersey have, on the last day of their legislative session, voted to pass a bill which expands abortion access in the state and codifies “abortion rights.”

The bill passed by both houses of the New Jersey state legislature the afternoon of Jan. 10 was vigorously opposed by the state’s Catholic conference. The bill now goes to Gov. Phil Murphy for his signature.

Bill S49/A6260, which was introduced Jan. 6, codifies a “fundamental right to reproductive autonomy, which includes the right to contraception, the right to terminate a pregnancy, and the right to carry a pregnancy to term.”

A “right to abortion” already existed in New Jersey because of state Supreme Court rulings. Proponents of the bill say the legislation is necessary to protect abortion in the state if Roe v. Wade were overturned.

New Jersey Right to Life says the wording of the bill would allow abortions up to the point of birth.

“This will apply to any individual who is present in the state, including non-residents, as well as those who are incarcerated and minor girls in custody or other government programs controlled by the state,” the pro-life group says.

By superseding all other laws regarding abortion in the state, the bill ​​”seeks to prevent the passage of any new pro-life laws like parental notification, bans on late-term abortion, and even those upheld as constitutionally valid by the U.S. Supreme Court,” New Jersey Right to Life says.

The act “leaves the door open” for a future bill to allow abortion coverage to be mandated in all health insurance plans, and lacks sufficient conscience protections for healthcare workers who don’t want to perform abortions, the group says.

The bill passed today follows the New Jersey Reproductive Freedom Act, which did not pass after being introduced in October 2020.

The Reproductive Freedom Act would have guaranteed a right to abortion under state law and required most private insurers to cover abortion and birth control with no out-of-pocket expenses. It would have removed some restrictions that pro-abortion rights advocates say are medically unnecessary, while allowing physician assistants, certified midwives, and other nurses to administer legal abortions.

The Reproductive Freedom Act was announced in October 2020 by Murphy, a Catholic. Despite that act not passing, New Jersey has since relaxed some abortion restrictions.

In October 2021, the New Jersey State Board of Medical Examiners unanimously decided to allow advanced practice nurses, physician assistants, certified nurse midwives, and certified midwives to provide first-trimester aspiration abortions. Those changes went into effect Dec. 6.

Previously, abortions in New Jersey had to have been performed by a physician, and any abortion past 14 weeks must have been carried out in a hospital.

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